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Apply for an F-1 Visa: Helpful Tips


Visa Info Webinar:

Watch our prerecorded webinar: I've Been Admitted To OCC, What's Next? - Visa Info for helpful tips.


​Basic Required Documents:

  • Passport – must be valid for at least 6 months from the program start date on your I-20. Verify that there are no errors in your name, birthdate etc…
  • Receive your Form I-20 from your chosen school, sign page 1.
  • Pay your I-901 fee at www.fmjfee.com.  Print out the confirmation of payment (receipt).

Apply for a visa

New students and continuing students who are traveling outside of the U.S with an expired F-1 student visa or without one will need to obtain a visa to travel into the U.S.  Learn more about visas at travel.state.gov.


PLAN AHEAD:  Obtaining a visa requires that you attend an in-person interview at a U.S. consular office and may take several weeks to process.  The earliest you can obtain a visa is 120 days before the start date on your I-20.  Give yourself plenty of time and plan accordingly.


Schedule your Visa Appointment

  1. Find the U.S. Embassy or Consulate near you.
  2. Fill out the DS-160 non-immigrant visa application and upload your visa photo.  Print out the confirmation page.
  3. Pay the visa appointment fee.
  4. Schedule an interview appointment.

GOT AN AGENT?  It is recommended that you, the applicant, do this process yourself. Help from an agent may be good, but the consular officer may have a negative opinion of applicants that rely on an agent.

You will need the following to schedule your appointment:

  • Orange Coast College's school code: LOS214F01186000
  • Pay the mandatory I-901 SEVIS fee

Review the U.S. Department of State's DS-160 Frequently Asked Questions.


Required Documents for your interview:

The list of required and recommended documents may be different for each consular office. Review the requirements for the U.S. embassy or consulate that you will visit before your interview and come prepared.


For NEW (initial students):

  • Passport with expiration 6 months or more from date of entry to the U.S.
  • Proof of admission to Orange Coast College
  • I-20 Form signed by OCC international student adviser
  • I-901 SEVIS fee receipt
  • Documents proving intent to return to the home country after completion of study
  • Financial support evidence
  • All U.S. Department of State forms and documents listed on the U.S. Embassy/Consulate website (non-refundable visa application fee and photographs)

For Continuing students, in addition to the above documents, we also recommend:

  • Valid OCC I-20 with valid travel signature, signed by OCC international student adviser
  • Transcripts from all U.S. institutions
  • All previously issued I-20s

Students on approved OPT should bring all of the above, as well as:

    • Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card
    • Job offer letter from employer/proof of employment

Tips to Prepare for your Interview:

  • Bring all required documents – review requirements and recommendations for the U.S. embassy or consulate you will attend.
  • Be clear and direct - the F-1 visa interview is very quick (1-2 minutes only).  We recommend you directly answer the questions you are asked and do not provide any additional information.
  • Prove financial stability – be able to explain where your money is coming from. If you parents will sponsor you, be able to explain what your sponsor's job/business is, what is their income and how your sponsor will send/transfer money to you for tuition fees and other expense.
  • Have a plan – be able to explain clearly and briefly why you chose OCC, what you will study, what you will do after OCC (transfer, return home), and what plans you have when you return home. How will your studies help you when you return to your home country?
  • Show Non-immigrant intent – a common reason for denials is that the applicant has not convinced the officer of non-immigrant intent.  The officer will be looking for any signs that you might want to remain in the USA after your study. Be able to explain and show that you DO NOT plan to stay in the U.S. indefinitely. The following are helpful:
    • Deeds for family owned properties or businesses
    • Job offers in your home country for when you return
    • Other strong ties to your home country
  • Speak for yourself – only you as the applicant will be permitted to be in the interview, parents, agents, and other support will have to wait outside. Be prepared to speak for yourself.
  • For IEC@OCC students: your I-20 states that you will be receiving intensive English language training. There may be a note about you starting an academic program in the future.  If the official asks what you want to major in after finishing at IEC@OCC, you may tell them.

What NOT to do:

  • Don't read a script – do not memorize a script or the school's information and read it to the officer. They want to have a conversation with you and understand your goals.
  • Don't bring unnecessary documents – the officers will only look at the required documents. Any extra documents (awards, letters from school) will not be reviewed.

More helpful tips:

Citizens of Canada & Bermuda:

Canadian and Bermudian Citizens do not need an F-1 visa to study in the U.S.  Once you have your valid I-20 form, present the following at the port of entry:

  1. Proof of Canadian/Bermudian Citizenship (For example: a Canadian/Bermudian passport)
  2. Original valid I-20 Form
  3. Proof of SEVIS I-901 fee payment
  4. Proof of financial support
  5. Proof of ties to Canada – ex: leases, contracts to your name, family businesses, employment, etc.

Upon Entry, you will be issued an I-94 Admission/Departure record, available online. Verify that you have been admitted in F-1 status.  If you are arriving through a land border, you may receive a physical I-94 card and there may be a fee.  To pay the fee or look up your I-94 record, visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection I94 website.


For more information, visit the U.S. Department of State's Citizens of Canada and Bermuda information page.